YORK CITY director Sophie Hicks insists the club are in a much stronger position to fight relegation than was the case nine years ago when they slipped out of the Football League.
Embroiled in trouble at the wrong end of League Two, the Minstermen have not won in 15 games and head into the Easter weekend sitting two points adrift of safety.
With most of their rivals playing 24 hours earlier on Good Friday, York – who yesterday signed Sunderland midfielder Adam Reed on loan – could be even deeper in the mire come kick-off at Bristol Rovers on Saturday.
Despite that and the obvious parallels with 2003-04, when a 20-game winless run saw York relegated to the Conference, director Hicks believes new manager Nigel Worthington can ensure Bootham Crescent will again be staging League football next season.
“The circumstances are very different to 2004,” Hicks, a director for the past decade, last night told the Yorkshire Post.
“There were a myriad of issues facing the club then. We didn’t own our ground and had some big financial problems. Basically, we were worried about not having a future.
“At the time in 2004, it is fair to say that the football simply couldn’t be the main focus. There was just too much going on off the field and too much to sort out.
“The opposite is true now. I will admit the run has been a bit unnerving, especially as it has seen us suffer another post-January slump.
“But this time we have been able to focus totally on the football side in an attempt to sort things out. That is why we made the change of manager, something we’d been unable to do in 2004 because the finances just weren’t there.
“Appointing Nigel was in the best interests of the club and, unlike in 2004, we have also been able to allow the manager to bring quality players in to freshen things up.”
Reed is Worthington’s fourth loan signing in as many weeks since succeeding Gary Mills as manager. The 21-year-old, yet to make a senior appearance for Sunderland, arrives with 36 league outings to his name via a variety of loan spells.
His most recent came with Portsmouth, where he played 10 times before being recalled to the Stadium of Light on March 7.
Reed will join Richard Cresswell, Josh Carson and Aaron Jameson in the squad that travels south to the west country later this week as York go in search of their first victory since Burton Albion were beaten 3-0 at Bootham Crescent on New Year’s Day, a result that left the club twice as far away from the relegation zone as the play-off spots.
“What we need is that one win,” said Hicks. “That can kick-start everything, as it would break the cycle.
“In that respect, the second half at Torquay was encouraging. I thought we played very well and were unfortunate not to get a draw.”
After taking on the Pirates this Saturday, York then have two home games against fellow strugglers Plymouth Argyle and Accrington Stanley that could go a long way towards deciding their fate.
Certainly, with just seven points separating bottom club Aldershot Town from Dagenham & Redbridge in 17th place, there is plenty to play for in the basement division.
Hicks added: “We remain very confident. Everyone is working very, very hard to make sure we stay in League Two. Every game is absolutely crucial.
“Everyone – from the players to the manager to the office staff and the board – are giving absolutely everything to make sure we stay in the Football League.
“It is important on so many levels. First, the prestige of being a League club is huge, while there are obviously financial benefits to be had as well.
“We also have the new stadium on the way so there is a lot to be excited about as a club. We just need to get over the line this season. It is so important.
“We worked so hard over eight years to get back into the Football League and we can’t let that go to waste. We have got a great manager who we believe can take us forward.”
York, whose move to the planned new community stadium at Monks’ Cross will go ahead regardless of their divisional status, are attempting to avoid becoming the first side promoted from the Conference to be relegated after just one year in the League.
Those attempts to avoid making unwanted history were dealt a terrible blow eight days ago when a nightmare set of results saw all four of the teams then sitting below them in the table win to dump York into the relegation zone.
Hicks admitted that came as a terrible blow, not least because all four winning was deemed so unlikely by the bookmakers that odds of 50-1 were offered.
“That wasn’t a great night,” she adds.
“But what will count at the end of the season is how we do, not the other teams.
“We have six huge games coming up. We remain extremely positive.
“Okay, you wake up sometimes in the middle of the night and start thinking, ‘What can I do to help us get out of this?’
“But this is a very tight team. There is no disharmony and everyone is sticking together. That gives us a great chance.
“So, too, do the signings Nigel has made. It isn’t easy to get players in at this stage of a season, but Nigel has, through his contacts and knowledge, managed to do so.
“We have brought quality players in over the past couple of weeks. Richard Cresswell was a big addition, as was Josh Carson. We feel the squad is stronger for the presence of all these signings. And we feel more confident to have these players at the club.”